NU women’s soccer boasts freshman class like no other

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Mike Puzzanghera

Freshmen midfielder/forward Rose Kaefer rejoices with her teammates at a game against UMass Lowell earlier this season.

Peyton Doyle, news staff

Entering college is not easy and being a student-athlete is even harder. Throw a pandemic on top of that, and it is nearly impossible. 

Five freshmen, Allie Vazquez, Bianca Resca, Eleanor Fisher, Gaby Scarlett and Rose Kaefer, on Northeastern’s women’s soccer team saw their first collegiate season postponed, and their patience tried. Finally, on Feb. 14, a chilly Sunday in New Hampshire, they got to feel the pitch under their feet again. 

Each of them entered the fall semester from a different background: Some went to high school a thousand miles from Boston, another just ten minutes from campus. They were all thrown into the same uncertain experience, forming a bond like no other.

For Resca a goalkeeper, the drag of waiting made the sight of a live match that much more enjoyable.

“It’s a lot of fun to have games again,” Resca said. “I love the atmosphere and just everything about being at a game. I love it. It’s so much fun. Everyone’s so excited, and it’s been a while since we played, so everyone’s excited to get out there.” 

Resca is somewhat of an outlier among her freshman peers as she has yet to make her collegiate debut. This is not something that she said she’s concerned about, however, as she knows she can still make a difference when she’s not in the game. 

“In practice the four of us goalies, we just try to push each to be the best that we can be,” Resca said. “I’m happy for Angie [Friel] that she’s starting and playing.”

Resca makes her presence known with her booming voice, fueling teammates and demoralizing opponents. While she may not leave an imprint with her hands or her feet, her voice rises above all others during the 90 minutes of play at Parsons Field. The game atmosphere brings out something special in Resca, and if her opponents dread her intensity now, they might as well pack up their things when they see her throw on her gloves and stand in between the pipes.

“I will definitely be very excited to step out on the field and be a part of a game,” she said. “People on the sideline, you’re part of the game hyping people up, keeping everyone motivated. But, I feel it’s not the same as being in the game and so I’m excited to get the opportunity to play in a game.”

Resca said she takes solace in the fact that, despite whatever struggles her and her fellow freshmen may be going through, they were not alone amid all the chaos.

“Just how unstructured everything was and just having to be ready for anything and able to do anything at any time was a strange adjustment. But it was also kind of nice — nobody had been through this yet,” Resca said. “Nobody else knew what to expect or what we’re going to go through… it was nice to know I wasn’t the only one not sure what was going on.”

While the team was limited to just practice and group training sessions, the players understood that some schools couldn’t even practice in the semester. For Resca, she felt that the fall season without games allowed the team to become closer.

“Even without the games in the fall, we went out there having fun playing for us, playing for each other, and the coaches made a point to remind us that some teams weren’t even practicing at all,” Resca said. “We just went out there and enjoyed the time we had with each other and being there as a team.” 

On the pitch, midfielders Scarlett along with Kaefer and Fisher make up a devastating attack for the Huskies. Scarlett is a blur up top, adding some crafty scoring and passing to go along with her blinding speed.

Against the University of Rhode Island March 7, NU was without their All-CAA forward, senior Chelsea Domond. Ten minutes into the match, Scarlett showed everyone why she was starting as a freshman, burning into the box, taking a well-timed pass from Kaefer and blowing the ball past three defenders for her first collegiate goal and Kaefer’s first assist.

Scarlett, a native of south Florida, said she’s had her struggles coping with the New England winter. This semester has been especially challenging when it comes to weather, as the team is forced to practice at Parsons Field at night, while their indoor facility, the Cabot Center, is being used as one of NU’s COVID-19 testing centers.

“I never expected to be playing soccer in 10 degrees because they always said that even when it did get cold, we would play indoors at Cabot,” Scarlett said. “I went back home in December to 50 [degrees], then I came back here in January to like 10 [degrees], or like negative 4 and that was really hard for me.”

Like many of her teammates, Scarlett is used to playing soccer year round, playing for her high school and club teams as well as the U17 and U20 Jamaican national team. It was nearly a full year in between her last game for Jamaica and the game against UNH in February. 

Had the team played games in the fall, that March to September break would have been the longest drought of Scarlett’s career. The postponement piled five more months on top of that, meaning that the freshmen would begin their careers like no other class had.

“With COVID, you don’t know what can happen, but the season getting pushed back was disappointing,” Scarlett said. “It was disappointing to hear the news that I couldn’t start off how all of the other girls started when they came in.”

The previous six months of uncertainty and postponements also left their mark on Scarlett and her teammates.

“Our first game that we had, I thought, in my head, like, this can’t be real. I felt like something was going to happen to cancel the game,” Scarlett said. “Even getting to the game and coming off the bus. I’m like, something’s going to happen in this game, it’s going to  get canceled.” 

Vazquez, a defender, appreciates the opportunity to get back on the pitch. Vazquez is the only member of the freshman class to start every game thus far for the Huskies. 

“I loved being able to play in a game again. It’s always been a goal to not only come here, but to actually play,” Vazquez said. “In the fall, I wasn’t doing great, so I was happy to be here and bring it together in the spring and be playing.”

Vazquez has grown into a titan at the heart of the rock solid Husky defense this season. Perhaps no heavier burden was placed on a freshman then when senior center back Julianne Ross went down with an injury, and Vazquez had to step in and replace her role as a defensive anchor. 

Often emulating Ross, the three-time All-CAA selection, Vazquez rolls up her sleeves and strikes fear into the hearts of her opponents. She has led her team to five shutouts thus far and looks to be a key future cornerstone for an already stout NU defense. 

The time off was new for all the freshmen, but it was particularly difficult for Vazquez as a defender, she said.

“Going into the fall, I just really felt unprepared because I was going to have the whole spring and summer to play and really solidify things that I wanted to work on and then I got none of that,” Vazquez said. “I kind of forgot how to defend. If you are a forward, then you can shoot and do drills, but I can’t defend air.”

Luckily for Vazquez, her upperclassmen teammates were well-suited to prepare her for the spring season. 

“I was up against Chelsea [Domond] and McKenna [McManus], and they’re so good and so fast and I was like, ‘Oh my God, if all the teams are like this it’s going to be so hard,’”  Vazquez said. “But they really prepared me because they’re wicked good so going into the actual games I felt pretty prepared.”

It is no easy task to replace an All-CAA player like Ross as a freshman, but Vazquez has taken it in stride. 

“It was definitely a lot of pressure at first, but then once you start playing, you’re just playing soccer and everyone wants the same thing,” Vazquez said. “You just want to win.” 

Kaefer and Fisher help keep the midfield flowing. Fisher is the jack-of-all-trades for this group. She controls play in the center, making life brutal for any opponent trying to move toward her defense and pouncing on any ball in her vicinity. Kaefer is a menacing workhorse on both sides of the pitch, but she lives on her opponent’s side of the field.

Up until Senior Day, Kaefer and Fisher started all but one game for the Huskies this season. The duo both contributed so much off the ball, constantly hounding any opponent that dared enter their space. When the ball did reach their boots, they almost always found a teammate pushing forward. 

Both players entered the final regular season match missing their first collegiate goal, but Kaefer broke the stretch. Coming off the bench, Kaefer delivered a crucial goal to put the Huskies up 2-1 in a must-win game against the Drexel University Dragons.

Each player in this freshman class adds something unique to the Husky squad. The freshmen bring everything they have, whether it be at a practice or game, in 5 degree weather or 65, there is no doubt about the talent and determination brought by these players. Pride runs deep in these Huskies, and they are all ready to make a mark on this team for years to come. This past year, no matter how tedious or terrifying, nothing could stop them. The Huskies learned to just appreciate the little victories.

When discussing how she approached these unprecedented times, Resca said it was just important to “take things day by day,” a common phrase reverberated through all the freshmen.